Understanding gospel-centered ministry merely in terms of preaching the message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection will turn you into a one-trick pastoral pony. Pastoral work should have the gospel as its motivation, not only its message.
Paul defines his ministry in terms of proclaiming the gospel in 1 Thessalonians, but it works itself out in a variety of ways (even in eschatology! See #19 and #20). Here’s how you can follow Paul’s example of multifaceted, gospel-centered ministry.
1. Let the work God has done in the life of your people propel you to pray for them, not just the work you think God needs to do in them (1:3).
2. Embrace the “both/and” of pastoral responsibility and the working of the Holy Spirit (1:5a).
3. Be a Christian whose life is worth imitating (1:5b).
4. Don’t let false humility keep you from setting yourself up as someone worth imitating in the areas where the Lord is working in you (1:6).
5. Seek “Word-centered while rejoicing in suffering” as the reputation for your church (1:6-7). Not “family-friendly,” “urban-focused,” or “progressive.”
6. Preach to please God (2:4). Not your elders or your complainers.
7. Reject the false dichotomy of compassionate preaching (2:7) and in-your-face preaching (2:11-12).
8. Don’t be a burden to your people while you preach the gospel that frees us from the burden of sin (2:9).
9. Preach in such a way that your listeners will be impressed with the Word of God, not your delivery of it (2:13).
10. Make your people your heartfelt affection, your glory, your boast, and your joy (2:17, 19).
11. Don’t accept failure when you attempt something you are convinced needs to be done. Maybe it’s just that you aren’t the one to do it (2:18; 3:1-2).
12. Counsel your people through suffering and persecution (3:1-3). Just because we should expect it doesn’t mean it’s easy to get through it.
13. Ensure that Satan doesn’t make your hard work pointless (3:5).
14. Express your joy to your people when they persevere during suffering and persecution (3:6-8).
15. As motivation to grow in holiness, don’t only point to what Jesus did at his first coming, but also to what he will do at his second coming (3:13).
16. Never let your people (or yourself) get comfortable with the status quo, but urge them to please God more and more (4:1).
17. Marvel at the fact that we sinners can please a holy God (4:1).
18. Warn your people about the spiritual consequences of sexual sin (4:6), not just the physical, emotional, and familial.
19. Seek a positive reputation for your church amongst your unbelieving community (4:12).
20. Correct the mentality that eschatology doesn’t matter, that the details of the end times are ancillary, or that it has little to do with today. Instruct your flock that experiencing encouragement today depends on our confidence in the last day (4:18; 5:11).
21. Get those eschatological details figured out for yourself. Not from charts and newspapers, but from Scripture, the “word of the Lord” (4:15).
22. Don’t expect your people to respect you because of your position. Earn it through your hard work (5:12-13).
23. Be patient with those struggling with sin, no matter what their sin is (5:14).
24. Ask your people to pray for you (5:25).
Gospel-centered ministry recognizes the need to live out the gospel in every way we serve, not only to preach the gospel to every one we serve. Don’t confuse this with assuming the gospel, or only preaching it with our actions and not our words. We have to preach the message of the gospel verbally, and Paul sets that example.
Thing is we have to do so much more than that.